• Words by Sonia

Who's Your Worst Enemy When Choosing A Perfume?

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Why have the words ‘perfume’ and ‘French’ been said in the same breath for centuries? Nowadays if you ask most people in the perfume industry, why do they say that the world’s perfume capital is Grasse? Considering that perfumery was developed in Grasse as an offshoot of the leather-tanning industry to mask the strong and very unpleasant scent of fine leather goods such as gloves, how can this be possible?

Furthermore, Spain had a much older perfumery tradition; well established since the 10th century. This tradition was brought by the Arabs who translated the Egyptian Eber Papyrus (1500 BC) – amongst other botanical compilations – which gathered the origins of alchemic aromatherapy and perfumery. By the time Grasse was starting to grow crops in order to perfume their leather goods, Italy and Spain had been growing a cornucopia of aromatics plants for centuries while botanists, alchemists and apothecaries had studied these plants, refined extraction processes and experimented with blends. Therefore, there must be another reason why perfume went from a smell-good recipe to ‘liquid poetry’ in France, and why modern perfumery thrived and gained international prestige in that country — just there.

One word: Marketing. And there’s a name behind it – Catherine de Medici.

When Catherine Medici married Henri II of France she brought her family’s perfumery treatises (closely related to alchemy) that were translated and shared with all their botanical refinement – giving the way to the luxury trade. However, the true turning point came with Louis XIV, the scent-crazy king who was determined to t